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California Senate Passes Funding For High-Speed Rail

Danny Lee |
July 6, 2012 | 5:05 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

The California Senate voted to fund a high-speed rail system that would link Los Angeles with San Francisco. (Creative Commons)
The California Senate voted to fund a high-speed rail system that would link Los Angeles with San Francisco. (Creative Commons)
The California Senate voted to fund the state's high-speed rail project on Friday, providing a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed for bullet trains to create jobs and provide a cleaner transportation option.

The bill, which the Senate approved 21-16 on a party-line vote, sets aside $5.8 billion to start construction in the Central Valley. It includes $2.6 billion in rail bonds and $3.2 billion from the federal government, according to the Sacramento Bee. The first 130 miles of track will connect Madera with Bakersfield.

Upon completion, the high-speed rail line, estimated to cost a total of $68 billion, would link San Francisco to Los Angeles with trains that can run as fast as 220 mph. But public support for the bullet train has declined as projected costs soared, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some lawmakers said support for Brown's tax plan could slip if the state authorizes rail funding.

More from the San Francisco Chronicle:

"…a large chunk, $1.9 billion, is earmarked for local mass transit system improvements in Northern and Southern California, including $140 million for new BART cars, $600 million for Caltrain electrification and $61 million for Muni's Central Subway. Another $500 million is for improvements to Los Angeles area transit systems."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other Democrats said the project is necessary to create thousands of jobs and improve the state's transportation infrastructure.

“Our predecessors faced this same challenge before building California’s freeway networks and the Bay Area’s bridges," Steinberg said in the LA Times before the vote. "Today, we have a historic opportunity to follow in their footsteps and do the same.”

Among the concerns that Republicans had with the project was that it would rely on uncertain future funding and that construction would begin in the sparsely populated Central Valley.

"I think this is a colossal fiscal train wreck for California," said Republican Sen. Tony Strickland.

Sen. Joe Simitian, who was one of four Democrats opposing the measure, said he supports high-speed rail but not the current plan, stating that there are "billions of reasons" to oppose it.

"Is there additional commitment of federal funds? There is not. Is there additional commitment of private funding? There is not. Is there a dedicated funding source that we can look to in the coming years? There is not," Simitian said, according to the Associated Press.

The bill now goes to the governor for approval.


For more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the high-speed rail project, click here.

Reach Executive Producer Danny Lee here; follow him here.



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